“Stop judging me! You’re always judging me. When I judge YOU, I keep it to myself.”
“Stop judging me! You’re always judging me. When I judge YOU, I keep it to myself.”
This evening when we sat down to dinner, we began as we usually do, with one of the kids saying a prayer. Sometimes I cue them by asking if there is something for which they are most thankful that day, or someone they are thinking of who may be going through a difficult time. When I don’t give them a cue, they usually rattle off a breezy:
When I was a kid our go-to prayer before dinner was: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand must all be led, give us Lord our daily bread, Amen.” We would race through the words as if we were trying to break a world record for speed each time. For most of my childhood I would say: “By his hand mustobbly led…,” only stopping to wonder what the heck “mustobbly” meant after many years of mindlessly repeating the word.
So this evening I asked my son to say a thoughtful prayer.
He paused to gather his thoughts and then began:
Thank you for giving us this food…and sustenance…
And for not giving us…
A couple years ago when my dad was turning 80, my sister offered to take him anywhere in the world to celebrate the milestone. She thought he might want to visit a country he had never been to such as Italy or England. He said he wanted to go back to Korea. My sister and I accompanied my parents back to their native land for one last visit.
Our home base was Seoul, but early on in the trip we drove two and a half hours south to Yesan-gun in Chungcheong province to visit my father’s last living sibling. As we drove deeper and deeper into the countryside, I asked my dad to tell me about his hometown. Of the place where he spent his childhood he had this to say: There is absolutely no reason why you would have ever heard of it.
We drove past endless rice paddies and greenhouses until we finally pulled into a narrow alley. My father’s brother who inherited the family farm built a more modern house in the place where the old hanok used to be…
His widow (second from the left) came out to greet us. My dad’s older brother and his wife (in the middle) were also waiting for us at the house.
I didn’t notice it at the time, but at some point during that visit, my aunt gave my mother a bunch of gingko nuts from the huge sack of them she had harvested from her own trees. I imagine they were from trees that were part of the landscape of my dad’s childhood. My parents brought a handful of them back to their home in Arlington, Virginia.
Fast forward a year…Last autumn I was telling my parents about the “Pratt Gingko” planted in 1860 near the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. When it’s in its full glory, it is a magical experience to stand under the leaves as they rustle in the wind and float down to the ground, which becomes draped in a shimmering coverlet of its golden leaves.
“Did you know your dad planted some gingko trees in the backyard?” my mother asked when I had finished rhapsodizing about the tree. He had planted the seeds from that handful of gingkos they brought back from his family’s farm.
My sister brought my parents down to Charlottesville this weekend for a visit. My sister and I were going to the Virginia Festival of the Book and thought for sure my dad, who loves books more than anyone else I know, would want to join us.
“I’m not going to go to the book festival,” he announced, “I brought the gingko trees to plant for you. Show me where you want me to put them.”
“How about in a row all along the back fence of the paddock?” I suggested, imagining the vision of golden radiance I would one day see from my kitchen window.
“Well, that would be ok,” he replied gently, “But…no one will be able to see them there.”
I had given the Wrong Answer: “Let’s put them wherever you think would be best, Dad!”
I watched my dad struggling to break through the tough soil in the part of the (FRONT) yard where he chose to plant the trees. I hovered around uselessly, then went to join my mother on the front porch where we sat and watched.
When she saw that he was having trouble standing up, she nudged me and said, “Go! Help your dad! He can’t get up!”
I ran over to him and reached out my hand.
“Can I help you up, Dad?” I asked hesitantly, afraid to embarrass him.
He wouldn’t take my proffered hand and told me he just needed a moment to rest.
Reluctantly, I left to make it on time to the workshop my sister and I were attending at the Festival. I only had time to urge my daughter to get her grandfather a glass of ice water before I had to drive away.
Later, my mother and I walked around the area where my dad had planted the seven baby gingko trees he had grown from seeds. My mama, the drama queen, always ready to devastate her audience with a toss of her head or a tragic line sighed and said, “As I watched him planting the trees, I realized these really are the last days of his life.” In the end, she told me that she and my son had to help him back to his feet and that my son took over digging the holes…
“One day, when the trees are grown,” she said as we inspected the tiny little saplings, “Your children will remember planting them with their grandpa.”
Pssst! P.S.: My sister Annabelle Kim recently published her novel Tiger Pelt, a Kirkus Best Books of 2015, partly inspired by stories my dad told us about his childhood. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Indiebound!
WOW – this library! It’s a Mexican Modernist marvel.
Sneak peek at the Chihuly sculpture Fiesta Tower from the escalator…angles, angles, angles…
Then KAPOW! with the 20’8″ sculpture exploding up through the atrium.
The library has the books and public computers you’d expect at most libraries, but there are also: an art gallery, a Children’s Low-Vision Reading Room with Braille and audio books, and the “Book Cellar,” a fantastic used book store in the basement.
It takes a lot to maintain such an amazing library…
The lovely, meandering River Walk is the heart of San Antonio…
It’s even prettier at night than it is at daytime. I loved hearing the mockingbirds singing in the trees all night long.
On our first evening in San Antonio we had dinner at Boudro’s on the River Walk. The only thing I can remember about that meal was the guacamole, which was transcendent. Fortunately for the world, they post their recipe here!
We witnessed a few weddings happening at this spot…
There are sculptures dotting the courtyard of the Mexican Cultural Institute, which is on the grounds of the convention center…
We strolled around La Villita Historic Arts Village, located right off the River Walk…
It was a long afternoon…
I am now obsessed with the concept of a jellyfish chandelier. They are kind of hard to see through the window…
We didn’t forget the Alamo…
and San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest standing church in Texas, where Davy Crockett, William Travis, and James Bowie are laid to rest:
South Main Plaza where the Cathedral is situated has a European feel to it. We weren’t able to make it, but at night a light show is projected onto the façade.
The Spanish Governor’s Palace
Tchotchkes galore at Market Square…
A little bull rider…
Pint-size cowboy boots!
We waited for over an hour to be seated for dinner at places like Boudro’s, Zinc, and Rosario’s. On our last night in San Antonio, we had our one non-Mexican/Tex-Mex dinner here…
Hot Joy is a buzzy restaurant that has been written up in Bon Appétit as a “Top 10 New Restaurants in America.” It’s got a casual, colorful vibe and interesting Asian fusion dishes. It was probably way too cool for the likes of me, which is why we showed up at 5 pm and were seated with no wait!
Our hotel was right next door to the Briscoe Western Art Museum which opens late (and for free) on Tuesday nights. After our early dinner we strolled through the museum…
The one place on my list that I didn’t get to, which will be my first stop if I ever go back to San Antonio, is the Japanese Tea Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden…
My favorite place in San Antonio, besides the River Walk in general, was the Central Public Library. I’ll post photos of this eye-popping building tomorrow!
“The best human being in the whole wide world works in that restroom,” I reported to my friend and colleague, who was waiting for me outside “Ladies B1” in the Charlotte airport.
The bathroom attendant had been outrageously, unreasonably cheerful as she “seated [her] ladies.” She pointed out empty stalls, held open doors, and ushered in women with a Right here, darling! Step right up! She welcomed everyone to Charlotte and blessed them as they made their way out the door.
As I sat in my stall I couldn’t help myself – a foolish grin washed over my face and I laughed out loud as I heard her lead other women to their stalls, insisting that “everyone’s going to be happy in my bathroom!”
“I think I know exactly who you’re talking about!” my friend exclaimed when I told her what I had observed, “I remember her from the last time I flew through Charlotte! We should really go find out her name and commend her to her supervisor.”
We were already halfway to our gate on our way to San Antonio, but we wheeled back around to find out the name of this woman who could approach her job working in an airport restroom as an event, a mission, and a blessing to others.
We introduced ourselves to Patricia in Ladies B1 and told her we thought she was amazing. We exchanged hugs and laughs and then my friend and I went on our way, texting her supervisor as we walked away.
“Isn’t your day just a little bit better because of her?” I asked. My friend agreed.
“She spends her day in an airport restroom and finds joy and meaning in her job…We have to remember her if we ever feel like complaining about our jobs,” we told each other as we made our way back to our gate.
We were on our way to NASPA, one of the largest conferences for student affairs professionals in higher education. For the next few days we would attend sessions and workshops on how to be more effective in our work. We would hear from experts in the field about their latest research and strategies for helping students flourish and thrive:
But the most valuable session I attended was probably not any of the ones I attended in San Antonio…it just may have been the one I went to during my quick layover in Charlotte.
I give you:
Program ID Title Room
101 Be like Patricia Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Ladies B1
The primula my mother-in-law brought from Scotland to England to America is blooming again. This humble little flower made its way to me from across the ocean wrapped in a napkin stashed in my mother-in-law’s handbag. It’s held a spot of honor in every garden of each of the three houses we’ve lived in here in Charlottesville. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve divided this sentimental favorite to share with friends…
In the evening I picked up my daughter and three of her friends after their second ever quartet practice. I laughed during the entire car ride home as the young musicians discussed their plans to get rich busking on the Downtown Mall.
“Whose case should we use to collect money?”
“Definitely mine,” said the cellist, “It’s the biggest.”
“Yeah, mine is way too small,” agreed the flautist, “It would fill up with money way too fast and we’d have to keep emptying it all the time, which would be a pain.”
Dream big, girls. Dream big!
Later that evening we had family movie night.
We’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of several weeks. Though Tolkien wrote his great epic in the 30s and 40s about hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, it’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between the trilogy’s war between the forces of good and evil and current events. Trump, Daesh, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis…they’re all in there. I found this gorgeous edition for my daughter who has only read The Hobbit, and still has the pleasure of reading the trilogy ahead of her. The rest of us are lined up to re-read them when she’s done!
MarieBette Café & Bakery and their brioches feuilletées are one of the many reasons I love living in Charlottesville:
There are only about two and a half days in any given year when I want to be outside, and Saturday was one of them!
My husband took the kids to play frisbee golf:
…while I had fun getting my hands dirty in the garden! I transplanted a few things, planted some seeds…
and finally finished the oyster shell path I began last year! It only took three more 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shells and the last dregs of my will to carry on. If you see me hobbling around clutching my back like an old woman, you’ll know why.
Winter Jewels Hellebores are one of the very first plants I put in my new garden. These flowers are so great! They bloom crazy early and then continue on for months, untouched by deer, insects, late snows and other gardening catastrophes. They self seed and are easy to divide too.
In the evening we all met up again for dinner at Smoked, a bustling barbecue restaurant in the newly opened Piedmont Place in Crozet. There was a rather long wait for a table, so we spent a lovely hour at Over the Moon Bookstore.
I’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for what seems like an eternity, but has really probably been less than a year. I thought I’d step out on Wolf Hall to have a meaningless fling with Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl, but I’m not enjoying that book nearly as much as I thought I would. So now I’m condemned to slog through TWO books before starting some of the books I bought at Over the Moon. I was discussing this with the bookseller and she told me she didn’t understand this at all:
“Life is too short. I give a book ten pages at the most, and if I’m not hooked, I just stop reading it.”
Do you feel obliged to finish a book once you’ve started? Even if you hate it?
Spotted on my way to book group brunch…
Did I mention how much I love living in Charlottesville?
This month my book group read my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt! I artfully posed some copies on the table only to realize with bitter disappointment once I got home – you can’t see the books!!!
You may not be able to spot the books in the photo, but you can find your own copy of Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. It’s a great pick for book clubs! No loveless marriages here…I promise it will move and inspire you. Readers of this blog may recognize some of the events in Tiger Pelt, because the boy’s story is inspired by my father’s life story. If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.
After I got back home, I began to redecorate for spring:
My daughter and I gave her guinea pigs’ pad a new look for spring too:
I feel that it’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi…A seagrass wallpaper to pull in a little more texture? Some ambient lighting perhaps? Some cushions for a pop of color? A chaise longue in the corner? Nothing but the finest for these round-the-clock industrial poop factories: